2019 National Book Awards Finalists 

To invoke this year’s most persistent platitude: We need good books now more than ever. From speculative fiction by Marlon James, to Carolyn Forché’s memoir 15 years in the making, this year’s National Book Award finalists reflect today’s ever-innovative literary landscape: Diverse perspectives are celebrated and old genre mores are thrown out the window. Literary luminaries like James, Susan Choi, László Krasznahorkai, and Laila Lalami are joined by rising talent including Akwaeke Emezi and Julia Phillips, and nearly all the finalists are first-time nominees.

Source: EXCLUSIVE: The 2019 National Book Awards Finalists | Vanity Fair

Every year when the Nobel, Pulitzer, Booker, and National Book Awards finalists and winners are announced, scores of people say they haven’t read any of them even though book sales usually increase after books receive awards.

I haven’t read any of the finalists on this list. The primary reason is that I very seldom buy hardback books. I tend to wait for the paperback editions. Sadly, by then I’ve often forgotten the books I was waiting for and so I don’t think of them until they show up on an awards listing.

I often wonder why so few people have read the awards’ finalists and winners prior to the award announcements. Are the awards out of touch with what most people want to read or ar most readers being lazy and sticking with the latest in the Tom Clancy, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts releases?

Some readers–including me–often shy away from titles where it looks like the authors attempted to write important books on purpose. It’s as though they look at the issues, pick something that’s cutting edge and current, and then craft a novel that’s intended to be gospel on the subject more than readable. The thin turns into a tidal wave, I think, where those voting on awards vote the “gospel” because they’re afraid they’ll be criticized if they don’t.

The same thing seems to happen with the Oscars, I think. And maybe beauty pageants as well.

Or, perhaps I’m just a bumpkin who likes easy books with lots of pictures.




LeVar Burton to Host 70th National Book Awards

The National Book Foundation announced that LeVar Burton, acclaimed actor and entertainment industry professional, will host the 70th National Book Awards on November 20, 2019 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Burton, who is known around the world as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge in the iconic Star Trek: The Next Generation television and film series, and as the host and executive producer of Reading Rainbow, will serve as master of ceremonies for the event that will announce the National Book Awards Winners in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature. The ceremony will also include the presentation of two lifetime achievement awards, to Oren J. Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association and pioneering writer Edmund White.In addition to announcing the winners of the National Book Awards, the benefit dinner on November 20 serves to fund the educational and programming work of the National Book Foundation year-round.

Source: LeVar Burton, Actor and Education Advocate, to Host 70th National Book Awards – National Book Foundation

I think it helps awards programs when an individual known to the general public serves as the host. This man is a great choice for we’ve watched in on the screen for years and he has been active in publishing. So, unlike some of the celebrities who testify before Congressional committees, Burton knows publishing and books.

Wish I could be there.


“Mountain Song” is free on Kindle from October 27 through October 1. This novel about a summer romance gone wrong is set in Glacier National Park and Tate’s Hell in the Florida Panhandle.

The 2019 National Book Awards Longlist: Fiction 

This week, The New Yorker is announcing the longlists for the 2019 National Book Awards. This morning, we present the ten contenders in the category of Fiction. Earlier this week, we published longlists for Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature.

Source: The 2019 National Book Awards Longlist: Fiction | The New Yorker

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here’s the long list for the fiction category the National Book Awards.

One criticism, I often hear for these awards and the Pulitzer Prizes for fiction is that most people have either never heard of, much less read, many of the winners.

That makes me wonder whether the fiction awards really focus on work that is viable, important, and in tune with the times or if they focus on material which is so far off the beaten track that they are actually oblivious to the times.

What do you think?

Here’s the list from New Yorker Magazine:

Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “Fleishman Is in Trouble
Random House / Penguin Random House

Susan Choi, “Trust Exercise
Henry Holt & Company / Macmillan Publishers

Kali Fajardo-Anstine, “Sabrina & Corina: Stories
One World / Penguin Random House

Marlon James, “Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

Laila Lalami, “The Other Americans
Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House

Kimberly King Parsons, “Black Light: Stories
Vintage / Penguin Random House

Helen Phillips, “The Need
Simon & Schuster

Julia Phillips, “Disappearing Earth
Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House

Ocean Vuong, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Penguin Press / Penguin Random House

Colson Whitehead, “The Nickel Boys
Doubleday / Penguin Random House

I’ve read The Nickel Boys and, while it was powerful, I thought it had an author’s trickery in it that kept it from working for me.